Physicians’ attitudes toward the definition of “death from age-related physical debility” in deceased elderly with aspiration pneumonia

 

Komiya K, Ishii H, Kushima H, Sato S, Kimura H, Yasuda T, Okabe E, Tokimatsu I, Yamamoto H, Kadota JI.

Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2012 Sep 19. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0594.2012.00941.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract

Aim:  Deaths from aspiration pneumonia in elderly patients are occasionally considered to be “death from age-related physical debility”, because most aspiration pneumonias are a result of aging and lead to death without any definitive therapy. The aim of the present study was to assess physicians’ attitudes toward the diagnosis of and actual description of “death from age-related physical debility” on death certificates for deceased patients with aspiration pneumonia. Methods:  This study surveyed 62 Japanese physicians including 36 pulmonologists and 26 other physicians who treat patients with pneumonia. Their attitudes regarding consideration and actually recorded “death from age-related physical debility” for deceased patients with aspiration pneumonia were assessed by using anonymous questionnaires, which included the decision-making process and the necessity of detailed diagnostic criteria. Results:  A total of 32 (52%) respondents had considered deceased patients with aspiration pneumonia to be “death from age-related physical debility”, and 10 (16%) have actually stated this on the death certificate. Advanced age, bedridden status, inability of oral intake and disturbance of consciousness including dementia were major factors in their decision-making. A total of 34 (55%) of the respondent physicians wanted detailed criteria to be established. Conclusions:  Physicians’ attitudes toward the definition of “death from age-related physical debility” vary a great deal depending on the respondent. The description in death certificates therefore might inaccurately reflect the results of current mortality statistics in Japan. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2012;

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